A$AP Yams would have celebrated his 28th birthday on Sunday had he been alive. Unfortunately, the co-founder of A$AP Mob passed away nearly two years ago after suffering an overdose due to mixing promethazine with other drugs. And while his passing left a void in the music world, Yams involvement in music may have been partially to blame for his addiction to drugs and eventually his demise, according to his mother.
Yams mother, Tatianna Paulino, wrote an op-ed piece for Noisey which published on Sunday in recognition of his birthday. She describes the day she received the call letting her know that he was being rushed to the hospital via ambulance after being found unconscious in his apartment. For her, the news of just how deadly his addiction to promethazine, commonly referred to as lean or syrup in many rap lyrics, could be wasn’t something she was aware of before his death. She wrote about helping him seek treatment for addiction prior to his death but admits she didn’t understand the real dangers of the drug cocktails of opioids and sedatives he was consuming.
“I wish public health messages about drugs were more clear and simple in emphasizing real concerns as oppose to hyping less likely outcomes,” she wrote. “I wish such messages simply stated, “Don’t combine opioids with other sedatives!” If they did, perhaps my son would be alive today.”
From her perspective, Yams was stressed due to his role as a leader in A$AP Mob. “My son was under a tremendous amount of pressure to keep the A$AP Mob collective striving together, successful and producing hit recordings.”
She continued, “At the same time, he told me he felt as if he was being squeezed out of the group of creative friends he had spent so much time and energy putting and keeping together.” She said she had to help get drug treatment for Yams using her employee benefits because, despite the group’s early success, he wasn’t financially able to take care of himself, something that wasn’t lost on him amidst the Mob’s rise to prominence. The mixture of fame without fortune was something she said weighed heavy on Yams, especially since he felt like his position was being threatened.
“Over time, he grew less comfortable with his role and place with A$AP,” she wrote. “The business began to weigh on him mentally and physically. He often felt uneasy in having to make the transition from a fun collective of friends, to a business partner in A$AP Worldwide, the business. In my mind, his drug use was a strategy to decompress and release.”
She doesn’t specify exactly who was exerting the the push to edge Yams out of the group, but it’s perhaps inconsequential now. For aspiring artists and their friends-turned-managers, the revelation should help make it clear that the music business is just that: a business. The dog eat dog nature of entertainment can and will drive apart even the closest of friends if they allow it to. Even though it’s tough, anyone starting out with their crew should make sure to have contractual agreements in place to make sure “everybody eats” isn’t merely a cute caption for Instagram.
But, even more importantly, Paulino’s point about making young people more aware of the dangers of certain drugs shouldn’t be missed. Most kids are taught growing up about marijuana, cocaine and alcohol, but drugs like lean, oxycodone and other prescription medications pose a whole different threat because the abuse of those drugs is fairly new to rap on a wider level and most don’t understand how powerful the addiction can be. As Yams mother notes, the deaths of people like DJ Screw and Pimp C, both early adopters of the syrup lifestyle, were spread so far apart how close they could hit home is lost on a generation coming up under the influence of a new group of drugs, partially thanks to the Mob itself after they helped popularize lean in their early music.
It’s something all of us, as artists and fans, should take stock in when it comes to the messages passed along to fans, especially the younger ones.